By Jeff Cox, CNBC.com Senior Writer NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- While the Dow hitting 13,000 made big headlines earlier this week, the Nasdaq's ascent to 3,000 could be the more significant of the two psychological milestones. That's because the Nasdaq, which measures 100 stocks primarily in technology and related fields, actually has been a market leader and could say more about where stocks are headed than the narrowly focused Dow and its 30 industrial companies. The Nasdaq was within a few points of the 3,000 milestone on Thursday, while the Dow continued to hover around the 13,000 mark.
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"We want to see leadership from the more aggressive areas, especially technology," says Ryan Detrick, senior analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati. "Usually in a bull market you see technology and small caps. Technology we've been having, which is a little more significant for a potential longer rally." Should the Russell catch up -- even though it doesn't have a nice, round number in sight -- that would be an even better sign. "Small caps haven't done much recently. They've been kind of consolidating," Detrick says. "You definitely want to see small-cap leadership like we did late last year and earlier this year." To be sure, many in the market dismiss the big landmark numbers. Short-term traders see little significance in them unless they signal verifiable resistance or support levels in technical analysis. "All of these numbers are irrelevant except to the public and the papers," says Keith Springer, president of Springer Investment Advisory in Sacramento, Calif. "To the real traders I don't think it makes any difference." Yet it's unmistakable that the Dow has struggled to break free of 13,000, even though it broke the barrier intraday a week ago. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is caught in 1,370-1,375 range, where it peaked in 2011, while the Nasdaq almost immediately retreated Wednesday after slipping past 3,000. "While Dow 13,000 is just a psychological number, 1,370 on the S&P is a big deal," Detrick says. "That's where we've been going for the last week or so. So that's a little more significant from a technical point of view." --Written by Jeff Cox of CNBC.